Recently, we have seen more and more conversation around keeping employees engaged and retaining top talent. Why? Because post covid we have all started to recognize how exhausted we are and employees are evaluating work differently. Trends we see such as “quiet quitting,” which is basically doing the absolute bare minimum to get a pay cheque, and the "Great Resignation” where we have seen a shift in employees leaving their jobs without giving any notice, explanation, or even having another role to go to.

While there is some argument about whether these trends are brand new or have always been around, one thing we can be certain of is that disengagement and turnover are costly. Retaining and engaging top talent is still critical now more than ever.

A study by the Work Institute found that the cost of losing an employee can be as high as 213% of their salary. Therefore, it is important for companies to take steps to prevent quiet quitting and improve retention of their employees.

According to a study by the Society for Human Resource Management, 44% of employees who quit their jobs do so without giving any notice. This can be damaging to the company, as it can lead to a loss of productivity due to the time it takes to re-hire and ramp new people (a minimum of 6 months in most cases). Not to mention the increased workload and demands placed on the remaining team members to “pick up the slack” often contribute to a negative company culture.

The pathway to strong employee retention however, is becoming even more complex as employees are seeking stronger relationships with their company and manager to remain committed.

Enhancing Commitment to Companies

Not surprisingly, going back to basics is the answer.

In order to build ongoing trust, maintain open channels of communication and ensure manager relationships with employees are strong, we need to have regular one-on-one meetings. Both the frequency and the quality of these meetings need to be a core focus if you want to retain a committed workforce. These meetings help address any concerns or issues that an employee may have on an ongoing basis, and allow employers to flex according to the needs that arise in these critical conversations.

Here are four ways that one-on-one meetings can help to enhance employee commitment:

  1. Creating Job Clarity: One-on-one meetings provide an opportunity for employees to discuss their role within the company and ask any questions they may have. We so often overlook how important it is to continually re-align on the expectations of a role, especially as company direction and context shifts. This can help to clarify expectations and provide a better understanding of the employee's responsibilities, which both reduces anxiety related to performance and increases their sense of purpose and commitment to the company.
  2. Clarifying Role Expectations: By regularly discussing role expectations with employees, managers can ensure that employees have a clear understanding of their responsibilities and how they fit into the overall goals of the company. This can help employees feel more valued and invested in the success of the organization. Regular check-ins to discuss progress are also highly motivating and much needed in times such as an impending recession, to affirm that our teams are indeed making progress (even when it may not feel like it).
  3. Crafting Ambiguous Job Roles: In some cases, an employee's role may be ambiguous or not fully defined. One-on-one meetings can provide an opportunity for employees to discuss and shape their role within the company, which can increase their sense of ownership and commitment to the organization. This can also allow organizations to truly embrace innovation and creativity that comes with high performing team members that are able to creatively address gaps and problems they see in the business using their skills.
  4. Creating Trust: At the core of regular 1on1s is building trust. Trust is an essential element of any healthy working relationship, and one-on-one meetings can be an effective way to build trust between employees and their managers. By regularly meeting with employees to discuss their concerns and ideas, managers can show that they value their contributions and create a culture of trust within the organization. The more trust you build, the more likely your employees are to disclose their challenges, intentions of potentially leaving, burning out or reasons for feeling disengaged.

Middle Managers and Burnout

Middle managers, who are responsible for leading and managing a team, often face unique challenges that can lead to burnout. These challenges can include a lack of support from top management, conflicting priorities, and a lack of clear direction while juggling the demands from their teams. They often suffer from being the “meat in the sandwich,” so to speak.

Burnout among middle managers can have serious consequences, including decreased productivity, increased turnover, and a negative impact on company culture.

To address these challenges and prevent burnout, it is important for top teams to listen to the concerns of middle managers and provide the support and resources they need to effectively lead their teams. This can include providing training and development opportunities, setting clear goals and expectations, and giving middle managers the autonomy to make decisions and solve problems. If middle managers are having effective 1on1s with their teams, they need to be equipped to address the issues and the opportunities they identify in these conversations. By equipping middle managers with the tools and support they need, top teams can help to create a positive and sustainable work environment for all employees.

Benefits of 1-on-1s

One-on-one meetings can provide numerous benefits for both employees and managers. In addition to enhancing commitment and preventing burnout, one-on-ones can also be an effective way to:

  • Foster open communication: By regularly meeting with employees, managers can create an open and safe space for employees to share their ideas and concerns. This can help to build trust and foster a positive work environment.
  • Provide individualized support: One-on-one meetings provide an opportunity for managers to focus on the specific needs and goals of each employee. This can help to identify and address any challenges or opportunities that may be unique to an individual employee.
  • Improve performance: By setting goals and discussing progress during one-on-one meetings, managers can help employees stay on track and identify areas for improvement. This can lead to increased productivity and job satisfaction.

To make the most of your time together, it is important to come prepared to each one-on-one meeting. This can include setting specific goals or objectives for the meeting, bringing relevant data or materials to discuss, and being open and receptive to feedback. Being really intentional with the topics discussed and open and flexible to what your people need, you can have effective conversations that actually motivate performance.

By approaching one-on-ones with a clear purpose and an open mind, managers and employees can make the most of their time together and achieve positive outcomes for both the individual and the organization.

The Definitive Guide to 1on1s

Here are some tips and advice for optimizing one-on-one meetings:

  • Set a regular schedule: One-on-one meetings should be a regular part of your routine, rather than an ad-hoc occurrence. Establishing a regular schedule for one-on-ones, such as weekly or biweekly, can help to ensure that you have dedicated time to focus on the needs of your employees. Also, set up specific cadences for different types of conversations. For example, you could have quarterly career growth conversations, regular informal conversations to check in on health and wellness and kick start each quarter with goal orientated conversations.
  • Come prepared: As mentioned above, it is important to come prepared to one-on-ones with specific goals or objectives in mind. This can help to ensure that you make the most of your time together and address any important issues or concerns.
  • Foster an open and safe environment: One-on-ones should be a safe space for employees to share their thoughts and ideas. Encourage open and honest communication by actively listening and showing that you value their input.
  • Follow up on action items: During one-on-ones, you may discuss specific action items or tasks that need to be completed. Make sure to follow up on these items to ensure that they are completed in a timely manner.
  • Be open to feedback: One-on-ones provide an opportunity for employees to give feedback on their role, the team, and the company as a whole. Be open and receptive to this feedback, and consider ways to incorporate it into your team or organization.

One-on-one meetings are an effective tool for enhancing employee commitment to companies. By providing a safe and open space for communication, clarifying role expectations, and building trust, one-on-ones can help to prevent quiet quitting and improve retention. Additionally, by supporting middle managers and addressing burnout, companies can create a positive and sustainable work environment for all employees. By following the tips and advice outlined in this article, you can optimize your one-on-one meetings and create a positive and productive working relationship with your employees.